The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Citizen Kane’ is a rare find

Vince Labriola | Friday, September 23, 2005

Modern American cinema has created a countless number of films, spanning nearly a 100 years in the process. Yet, so few possess that undeniably timeless quality that truly defines a “classic” film.

Film theorists write articles, critics debate and the average viewer simply returns again and again to these films – a testament to their greatness. Orson Welles’ seminal 1941 work “Citizen Kane” is one of these films.

For anyone interested in the cinema, it is a required screening, a film so monumental, both technically and aesthetically, that its tremendous influence on film is felt to this day. Deceptively simple, yet incredibly complex, “Citizen Kane” not only established Welles as a master of his craft but has since become recognized one of the most enjoyable theatre-going experiences ever.

The story is simple enough. Charles Kane (played by Welles himself), a fabulously wealthy newspaper baron, dies one night after uttering a single word: “rosebud.”

In an effort to uncover the meaning of this utterance, a local reporter proceeds to interview the people closest to Kane during his life.

What ensues are a series of flashbacks that tell the story of a man with a turbulent past, and how he rose to become one of the most ruthless businessmen in the world.

Welles, making his cinematic debut with this film when he was only 25 years old, makes masterful use of his medium.

Every shot is expertly composed, beautifully lighted and perfectly acted. In fact, it’s difficult to give the film enough credit here and now, although it has been the subject of countless numbers of articles and critiques.

“Citizen Kane” is a film that simply must been seen. Nothing else can do it justice.

On paper, it is a story of a complex man, his success and failures, his many personal contradictions and the impressions he left on those closest to him.

Onscreen, however, Welles presents his story with such flair and talent that it becomes that rare film which keeps your eyes riveted to the screen from beginning to end.

Being a modern audience member, it’s almost as much fun watching what Welles does with the camera and thinking of the more contemporary films that have emulated it like the deep, shadow-filled lighting of “The Godfather.” Welles does it here first.

The twisting camera shots in “Fight Club” – Welles did it nearly 60 years prior, without the aid of computer effects.

“Citizen Kane” was a film that truly defines what American cinema is all about – pushing to the absolute limits of storytelling and technical craftsmanship, and the result is a spectacular film that will remain one of the most prominent landmarks in the history of cinema.

It should come as no surprise, then, that “Citizen Kane” was chosen as one of DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts’ “Classic 100 Films,” where it joins the ranks of such memorable movies as Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and Jean-Luc Godard’s sublime New Wave classic “Breathless.” It certainly deserves to be ranked in the midst, if not above all these films.

Make it a point to head over to the DPAC this Saturday at 3 p.m. for the screening of “Citizen Kane.” If this is your first viewing or just the first time seeing it on the big screen, you can rest assured it will be a cinematic experience not soon forgotten.